by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Two decades ago, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said the Council on American-Islamic Relations has “ties to terrorism” and called for the federal government to cut ties with the controversial anti-Israel group. Schumer, now the Senate majority leader, has flip-flopped since then on CAIR, which is back in the national spotlight after its founder said he was “happy to see” Hamas attack Israel.
Last year, Schumer said in a letter of support for CAIR that the United States is “fortunate” the organization is “fighting for the sake of our freedoms.” In 2015, he applauded CAIR for its “determination to continue to spread humanity” and to “cultivate and encourage mutual understanding amongst Americans of all backgrounds and cultures,” according to a letter CAIR cited in fundraising literature.
That’s a far cry from what Schumer said during a 2003 Senate hearing, when he slammed CAIR’s leaders for having “intimate connections with Hamas” and said the group was known to have “ties to terrorism.” In 2009, Schumer submitted a letter to the FBI that noted CAIR was an unindicted co-conspirator in the prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation, a Hamas front group. Schumer said federal agencies ceasing work with CAIR “should be government-wide policy.”
These statements could prove awkward for Schumer, who seeks to position himself as Democrats’ pro-Israel voice. CAIR founder and executive director Nihad Awad said last month that Israel “does not have that right to self-defense.” Awad, a former spokesman for the Islamic Association for Palestine, a Hamas front group, said he “was happy to see” Hamas fighters attack Israel on Oct. 7.
While Schumer has not responded to Awad’s inflammatory comments, the White House denounced them as anti-Semitic. The White House faced scrutiny for selecting CAIR earlier this year to serve on its National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism.